the civilian population as a bioweapons defense measure, however several government agencies are working at unprecedented speed to put the correct policies into place.
The threat of a global pandemic makes smallpox one of the top vaccine priorities. An aggressive clinical development plan is currently in place; its goal is to build the stockpile with enough vaccine to protect the entire country within the year. The vaccine immune globulin (VIG) supply also needs to be expanded. Long-term goals include developing a safer vaccine that can be used in immunocompromised or other at-risk individuals.
Anthrax vaccine is another top priority. As of May 2001, over two million doses of the current anthrax vaccine have been administered to over 500,000 individuals, mostly military personnel. But there is an urgent need for more anthrax vaccine for the immunization of high risk civilian populations, as well as for use in medical management of exposed individuals in conjunction with antibiotics. Currently, there is only one manufacturer of licensed anthrax vaccine, but production is limited because of regulatory problems. Several commercial firms have offered to aid in scaled-up production, but the inherent variability of the manufacturing process and the risk of failure when scaling up so rapidly to such a high volume could create problems. Other mid to long-term anthrax vaccine needs include the development of a second-generation vaccine (e.g., a recombinant protective antigen vaccine) as well as better delivery technologies (e.g., plasmid DNA).
Of lesser importance than vaccines against smallpox and anthrax are vaccines against bacterial infections for which antibiotics can be used and other viral agents that, for the present, seem to be a lesser threat.
A recent independent review of DoD’s vaccine acquisition program recommended an integrated approach between DoD and industry and the establishment of a dedicated national vaccine production facility that allows for maximal flexibility and expandable manufacturing capability for the production of various types of vaccines. Whether the proposed facility will be governmentowned and contractor-operated or contractor-owned and contractor operated is open for discussion.
Ebola virus provides a useful paradigm for how a molecular-level understanding of the pathogenesis of a virus can be used to develop a new vaccine for an infectious agent that would otherwise be difficult to tackle. This type of molecular genetics approach can reveal possible targets for antiviral drugs as well. For example, recent studies have shown that one of the domains of the ebola virus forms a coil-to-coil structure that is similar to structures found in other viruses, including HIV and influenza. This similarity suggests that the approach being used to develop products for antiviral use against HIV may also be useful for targeting the coil-to-coil region of ebola virus. In fact, targeting this coil-to-coil structure may prove to be a useful general antiviral strategy against many different viruses.